Bill Myers, a popular Christian writer, has 50 books currently in print, including the "Forbidden Doors" series for teens and "The Dark Side of the Occult" for adults. Beliefnet interviewed him about his latest entry in the "Bloodhounds Inc." series for young readers-a book featuring a group of school "misfits" who are obsessed with a fantasy book series about a wizard.
Is your new book "The Scam of the Screwball Wizards" a response to Harry Potter?
It's about kind of a social-outcast child who is looking to empower his life through wizardry. A brother-and-sister detective team try to help their friend who's getting caught up in this craze. There's plenty of humor, which is typical of the series. I don't know if I wrote it so much as a simple reaction to Harry Potter as in reaction to our culture. As a youth worker I'm quite concerned with the amount of supernatural or occult literature that's out there. When I see so many books that say a young boy can find his identity and can be empowered by taking a shortcut through difficulties of adolescence-and can look upon occult elements as a way of taking that shortcut-then I'm concerned. Some of the kids I work with are attracted to this supernatural thinking. They think, If I can empower my life by doing that, then maybe I don't need to go through all the other teen angst. We see it in Columbine, we even see it in people such as David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam killer. He came out of the military a social outcast and turned to an occult group that accepted him.
But these would seem like pretty extreme cases, rather than the mainstream kids who just enjoy fantasy literature.
I'm certainly not advocating censorship, but I'm trying to be another voice. I think it's a voice that needs to be listened to.
What is it about the Harry Potter series that concerns you?
Even though it's treated as funny and humorous, I am concerned that the kid finds his identity and authentication through occult elements. I think [the books are] clever, I think they're witty, I think they're well-written. All the other elements I think are brilliant, but when you start saying the occult is just a little fantasy plaything, then I'm not such a big fan of the series.
If you believe as I do that the occult is something dangerous, and you start blurring the line between the occult and fantasy, you've got a problem. But I think you have an even greater problem when you say those occult elements are something positive.
Using the ouija board as an example-by the way, according to "Zillions" magazine a few years back, it tied with Monopoly as the most popular board game in America-I think there is more than ample documentation of children who started playing with a ouija board that have developed some very, very
Are you trying to make the Bloodhounds series a way to convey that message? Will you have something on ouija boards, for instance?
Perhaps more so for [the teen series] "Forbidden Doors." In that series, the first book deals with ouija boards, the second with reincarnation, and the third book deals with so-called spirit guides. But "Bloodhounds Inc." is for a younger set, so we're trying to take it a little more lightly. I'm trying to take away all the superstition that the kids get caught up in and say there's a rational explanation for 99% of all this stuff. With "Forbidden Doors," the position I'm taking is, But there are things to be concerned about.
With Harry Potter, a lot of parents are just happy that their kids are reading, period, regardless of what they're reading.
I wish I could get on that bandwagon. I hear that all the time. My premise is it matters what you read, just as it matters what you eat. If you tell me it's better for a child to eat poison than not to eat, I'll say I strongly disagree with you. If you're telling me that reading any story that treats the occult as innocuous fantasy [is better than reading nothing], I'll disagree with you. I know it's dangerous.
Are you going to take your kids to see the new Harry Potter movie?
I won't take my kids to see it. But I'll certainly go as a person that's a part of the culture and trying to reach a culture. My child's school insisted that my 11-year-old read Harry Potter in class, and we turned that into a proactive thing. Instead of my saying "You can't read that," I read it along with her and let her discuss the things that were fantasy and the things that were occult so that she could tell the difference. It was educational for both of us.
There were one or two mentions of God in the "Screwball Wizards" book. Do you try to get God into every book?
Everything I write is to draw the reader closer to the heart of God. That's my agenda, that's my mission statement. The trick with children is to make sure the entertainment level is high enough to where they don't think they're sitting through a seven-hour Sunday school lesson. Every book I've ever written starts off with a thematic bible verse. There's definitely a very strong Christian bias in my writing. And I make no bones about that, but I do try to make sure that it doesn't feel like you're sitting through a sermon.
In this book it's the quote from Philippians, "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is pure.think about such things." Are the kids just thinking about the wrong things?
They're well past the thinking stage, they're actually enacting, living out things that are not that healthy to be thinking or living out.